I recently received an e-mail from a physician assistant who asked me to call her as soon as possible about an urgent situation. During our conversation, I learned that she was planning to resign from her current position and wanted to make sure that she had copies of all her paperwork, including her malpractice policy. To her surprise, it turns out that the practice she worked for had not paid the bill for her malpractice coverage in four years! In other words, she’d been practicing, in a high-risk procedure-oriented specialty, without any malpractice coverage for four years. Can you imagine the panic and devastation she felt?

Luckily, her contract stipulated that the practice would provide her with malpractice coverage. In the end, the physician-owner would have likely been responsible for any claim initiated for a service provided by the PA during the time when a policy wasn’t paid by the practice. However, to recover the damages, the PA would have had to spend thousands out-of-pocket to hire attorneys to take on the malpractice claim as well as sue the practice for not upholding their contract. If faced with a situation where the practice closes, the physician retires or files for bankruptcy before a malpractice claim is filed, one would have to inquire about whether any course action could be taken at all.

There are two lessons to be learned from this experience:

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  1. Get a copy of your malpractice coverage yearly. Have your contract state that the employer will not only provide malpractice coverage but will give you a copy annually.
  2. Take responsibility for your paperwork. You must be ultimately responsible for both your documentation and renewal notices. If your next renewal notice gets lost in transit, the insurance company has no obligation to contact you.

Do you have a copy of your practice agreement, contract, and any required documentation from your state licensing board?

Make sure you have a copy of your malpractice policy, and mark the renewal date on your personal calendar. This may be someone else’s responsibility (office manager, personal assistant, etc.), but your job on the line. Avoid the potential anxiety by making sure this task is something you monitor personally.

Ms. Jacobson practices dermatology in Lancaster, Pa. She is also the owner of Strategic Medical Consulting, LLC and PAprofession.com.